Imagine limitless desire! Liquid, glistening, borderless. Let me describe it a little so you can visualise it, better. Think of an endless expanse of pale pink blancmange quivering, slightly. A mixture of the creamy and the gelatinous. A beautiful dessert from a recipe book, or better, from a beautiful advertisement, spilling all over the place, revealing its gloriousness to you. It never ends. It's a body run free and deliquesced, bubbling and sliding around in happy excess. This is what a feeling of pure want looks like in your veins and your brain: the soft sticky crevices, empty and full, warm and chilly.
What do you want to do with this stuff? All this desire. To dive in and lose yourself? A character in one of Donald Barthelme's short stories¹ describes the desire to rip off a patient's hospital gown and fall into an abyss of 'stupendous white puree'. But this matter is so much like a mouth or a foodstuff, you wouldn't want to miss out on touching it with your mouth. Feel it running around your teeth and tongue, mixing with saliva. Imagine what eating looks like from inside the mouth! Or kissing for that matter. In Jim Crace's The Devil's Larder, a mother and daughter decide to try eating the food from one another's mouths: 'Our lips and noses rubbed, we breathed into each other's lungs, our hair was tangled at our chins. I tasted sleep and giggling, I tasted disbelief and love that knows no fear. My daughter tasted just the same as me.'²
But no, perhaps I have gone a bit too far, because are you now feeling queasy, or worse, disgusted? It's all to easy to fall into desire's flipside when there are no limits placed upon it, and Nicolas Deshayes, the artist whose images can be seen in the Clockworkgallery this autumn, creates sculptures and photographs that seem to hinge on such a problem. A series of Deshayes's recent sculptures made by vacuum-forming plastic over rippling, disturbed planes of plaster, which have been photographed for the two images presented here, are carriers of seduction shadowed by disgust. A pink, expansive plane of rippling, bubbling matter. They are the euro1000 face cream advertised on sparkling billboards seen close up in industrial vats; they are orifices seen under a microscope. They are beautifully examples of the informe, and yet, they almost have too much form. They are the glistening treats of sensuality, horrored by the disintegration of the body into sagging bulges, excretions, mutations, and slime. Autumn is an appropriate season to consider this, as the natural world offers us such beauty of colour and fruit, before turning into pulp.
Deshayes often mounts these vacuum-formed sculptures in hinged panels which are then affixed to larger wall-mounted boards, made from the kind of materials used for cubicles and walls in public amenities such as public bathrooms, buses and hospital waiting rooms. They are bland and light; neutral, pastel, wipe-clean. In the public space granted by the Clockworkgallery however, the artist's images are aligned with the public space of the advertising billboard- those glamorous images of airbrushed promise and eternal beauty covered in thick layers of shine spray. As beautiful images offer you pretty faces, gleaming bodies mousse foundation, anti ageing serum and the ecstacies of eating and drinking. But stop! In this age of liquid capital, where images must reach beyond reality to induce such longing in us, Deshayes shows us desire for what it really is - the shivering gleaming expanse of formless stickiness that attaches itself to other things. Taste it, dive in and come out the other side. What human would ever want to reach such a sated plane, in which there is no more gunk, no more bodies and mess? So, be washed clean by your desires! By embracing their billowing amorphousness and moist, sticky residue.
¹ 'Sentence' by Donald Barthelme in Forty Stories (1987) ² The Devil's Larder by Jim Crace (2001)